Swoop on riches may hit serious roadblock
TRAINER Matthew Dale finally gets Fell Swoop back into winning form - then next start he bumps into Alizee.
Dale could be excused for wanting to kick the cat, having to take on a dual Group 1 winner in the middle of summer, but instead he's looking forward to the challenge at Royal Randwick.
In fact, Dale could have chosen an easier race option but instead has Fell Swoop clashing with Alizee in the Listed $150,000 Christmas Classic (1200m).
Fell Swoop was nominated for the Group 3 Standish Handicap at Flemington on Tuesday but Dale was comfortable with his decision to send his sprinter to Randwick.
"We were thinking of the Standish but there were a number of different things at play there including transport,'' the Canberra-based trainer explained.
"But we were going to have to leave earlier and get back later so that was an influence on our decision.
"This time of year it is very unusual to have a horse like Alizee in work, so it will be interesting.
"She is a big, strong mare and the 60.5kg won't worry her as such, but she has to carry the same weight as Fell Swoop.
"The weight structure of this race is not as favourable either as he has 60.5kg and the spread is to 53kg. In the Standish, he had 59kg on a 54k limit.
"But I'm happy with him and Fell Swoop has done really well since his win here two weeks ago.''
Alizee is resuming after suffering a bleeding attack back in August, while Fell Swoop goes into the Christmas Classic as a last-start winner of the Razor Sharp Stakes two weeks ago - his first success since April, 2016.
Ladbrokes fix odds betting has Godolphin mare Alizee as the $2.25 favourite with Fell Swoop next at $3.80.
Alizee is already the winner of the Flight Stakes and Queen of the Turf Stakes at Group 1 level, earning nearly $1.5 million in prizemoney.
But Fell Swoop is no slouch either. Despite his long winning drought, he is a proven top class sprinter with a string of Group 1 placings including a second and third in successive TJ Smith Stakes behind champion sprinter Chautauqua, a second placing in an Oakleigh Plate and a Manikato Stakes, and a third in the Darley Classic.
Dale said Fell Swoop had been plagued by hoof problems over the past 18 months but he finally had the gelding back in top physical condition and that showed at Randwick last start when he defeated Cradle Mountain by two lengths.
"Fell Swoop certainly hasn't gone backwards since his last start win, I'm very happy with him,'' Dale said.
"He looks the likely leader in the race and then we have got to try and hold off Alizee and the others down in the weights.''
Fell Swoop led throughout to win the Razor Sharp and Dale doesn't feel the need to change a winning formula.
"It looked like he was doing it quite easily in front the other day but the sectionals suggest otherwise and they actually ran along at a genuine tempo,'' Dale said.
"Although this is a small field and there doesn't look like there is a lot pressure we will let him do his own thing. We will let him free-wheel out in front as that is the way he likes to be ridden.''
Dale said if Fell Swoop raced well again on Saturday, he would likely go a month between runs and be aimed at the Group 2 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley.
"These two races will springboard him into the autumn, where we have some options,'' the trainer said.
"We are even thinking of taking him out to 1400m because when he is rock-solid fit I'm sure he will run the trip but we need to get through his next two runs.''